NaPoWriMo Day 24: Alexander Blustin – Release

Today Alexander Blustin shares a useful technique for writing poems out of nonsense:

This is a prompt from Patrick Widdess’s Poetry Non-Stop book, and it is one I find difficult, but actually the word itself points to a good general method for tackling a difficult prompt. What I’m going to suggest is that you release yourself from making sense. This is a great way to generate original ideas, because when we become hung up on whether something makes logical sense, we become limited by the conscious mind which can be very stuck in its ways.

  • Firstly, time yourself for ten minutes and write about anything, absolutely anything, for that length of time. This is just to get the words flowing.
  • Secondly, choose a standard poetic form. This won’t be your ‘real’ poem; it’s just an exercise to generate material. Depending upon how familiar you are with poetic forms, it could be as simple as a limerick, or something more involved like a triolet or a ballad or perhaps a sonnet.
  • Thirdly, fill up your chosen form with anything that pops into your head, working quickly and not censoring yourself. Write total nonsense. The only rule is that whatever it is has to fit the meter and rhyme-scheme of the form. Whatever you do, don’t try to make sense or to communicate; all you’re doing is extruding random word-filler into a template, as quickly as you can.
  • Fourthly, look back over your random poem and see whether it sparks any ideas for a real poem. If so, great; off you go. If not, write another random poem, perhaps choosing a different form, and repeat this process until something jumps out and grabs you.

This was the method I used when I first met the prompt in Patrick’s book. I have taken to using this book during a couple of 30-day months every year, since it is a really convenient way of cornering myself into generating new material every day, and I can then spend the rest of the year editing this into usable poems.

In the case of ‘release’ I started with a few minutes of random writing, during which a garlic press just so happened to pop up, and then I tried writing out an acrostic on the word release. Next, I very quickly wrote down a completely nonsensical sonnet in which the garlic press also happened to feature. Now, at that point, the line ‘he rinsed the neighbour’s garlic press’ occurred to me. I then realised that the concept of release was relevant to the idea of ‘getting out’ of one’s social background through adopting the cookery of a desired social group. The following villanelle was constructed accordingly.

This poem appears in the March 2022 edition of the light verse webzine Lighten Up Online and I wish to thank the editor Jerome Betts for his very helpful feedback.

Getting In

He rinsed the neighbour’s garlic press.
Funny how things come about;
Funny how some things progress.

Better not to leave a mess –
The owner had impressive clout.
He rinsed the neighbour’s garlic press;

Better not to cause distress
To those who lent it for his trout.
Funny how some things progress.

How has he got to this address,
When all those years they kept him out?
He rinsed the neighbour’s garlic press;

Pretentious food, but nonetheless
He’s learnt it wafts away their doubt.
Funny how some things progress;

The pungent odour of success,
The rules one simply cannot flout.
He rinsed the neighbour’s garlic press.
Funny how some things progress.

Alexander Blustin

Alexander Blustin’s light verse has previously appeared in Lighten Up Online, Light Quarterly, The Bell and in audio form on the Poetry Non-Stop blog. His heavier verse has appeared in Popshot and elsewhere. From October 2012 to July 2014 he ran a weekly poetry stall on Cambridge Market (UK), with a particular focus on work from local Modernist and experimental publishers.

Please share your responses to today’s prompt either in the comments or via email. The best submissions will be featured in future podcasts.

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Books by many of the poets featured on the podcast are available from the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop here. All books purchased via this link help to raise money to keep this podcast going.

Episode 40: John Hegley – Odes to John Keats and Fishy Acrostics

Picture: Polly Hancock

It’s a pleasure to welcome John Hegley, a poet who never fails to entertain with his words, wit, music and audience participation. In a career spanning over 40 years John has appeared on Radio 4 and Radio 1, been a regular at the Edinburgh Festival and been an inspirational tutor running creative writing classes and activities up and down the country.

He has recently published a collection of poems inspired by the life and work of John Keats with Caldew Press called A Scarcity of Biscuit. On the podcast he talks about how he came to know and appreciate Keats’ life and work starting with a residency at Keats’ house. He has continued to explore and write about the great romantic poet using his playful style of writing to reveal a lighter side to the tragic bard’s life.

John’s fish acrostics exercise

Make a paper fish and write an a poem on it with each line beginning with the letters of the word FISH and/or POISSON. See the video above for a demonstration and a couple of examples by Patrick below.

Please share your work as always. It would be great to see pictures of your fish on social media. Please post and tag @poetrynonstop. You can also send them by email here. Let’s create a shoal of poetic paper fish!

Handfish acrostic by Patrick Widdess
Poisson acrostic by Patrick Widdess

You can purchase A Scarcity of Biscuit from Caldew Press here. For John’s other work and activities, see his website: www.johnhegley.co.uk

Books by many of the poets featured on the podcast are available from the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop here. All books purchased via this link help to raise money to keep this podcast going.

When? – Will Ingrams

Gaia by Luke Jerram at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich

Here’s an abracadabra poem by Will Ingrams. Hopefully it will conjure up a bit of green magic as Cop 26 begins.

You can learn more about the abracadabra form on the recent podcast with Ken Cumberlidge here.

When?

And when should we panic? The countries that mine
coal and strangle the planet want time to
‘adjust’, while our leaders decline to
fund wider replacement of gas
burning boilers, so how can
we maintain the hope that
a granddaughter’s child
might find himself
blessed with a
world like
this?

Will Ingrams

Episode 36: John Osborne – Poetry in the supermarket

Picture: Katie Pope

Everything’s in the supermarket so you can write about death and sadness and love and romance.

John Osborne

Norwich-based poet John Osborne reads from his latest collection A Supermarket Love Story and discusses the potential for poetry in the setting of the stores we take for granted.

John’s supermarket writing prompt

Choose an aisle in a supermarket and write a poem about it OR write a poem with the title ‘A Supermarket Just Before Closing’.

Tips:

  • Visit a supermarket you don’t usually go to or go at an unusual time
  • Make a list of words associated with supermarkets
  • Write down memories, observations and other experiences associated with supermarkets
  • Think about how these experiences relate to other parts of your life

We’d love to read any poems you write so please send them in here for a chance to be featured on the blog or podcast.

John Osborne writes stories, poems and scripts. His poetry has been broadcast on Radio 1, Radio 3, Radio 4, BBC 6Music, XFM and Soho Radio. You can purchase A Supermarket Love Story here with illustrations by Katie Pope

www.johnosbornewriter.com

Episode 35: Wendy Hind – Tiny Poems

Wendy Hind from Lincoln, Nebraska, turned to poetry when her son was born with critical health problems. As her interest developed in poetry as narrative medicine for the soul she started the Tiny Poetry project, writing and sharing poems that deliver small but potent doses of hope, resilience, compassion and empathy. She shares some of the poems and talks about how the power of poetry is being increasingly recognised in the medical world.

Wendy also shares a poem written in response to Abbie Neale‘s writing exercise on clothing.

Wendy’s tiny poetry exercise

1. Think of a time when you or a loved one was ill. Take a few moments to write down five to 10 words that come into your mind when you think about that experience.
2. Next write a corresponding word next to each of the words you have just written. Maybe it is a descriptive word, maybe an action word, maybe a metaphor.  
3. Now read through the group of words circle those pairs that resonate the loudest with you. Add one more brutally honest word to each pair.
4. Take these words and attempt to compose a poem. The poem may be long at first. Often tiny poems are the result of paring down a longer poem – much like taking your initial list of words and taking out those words that are the least powerful. 
5. As concise brevity is the point of a tiny poem, every word must work towards the meaning of your poem.

Notes for a tiny poem

This is a great exercise for focusing the mind and writing about experiences that might be difficult to address. As you can see from the notes above, the initial list of does not have to be particularly creative or original. The words may or may not end up in the final poem but can help to pinpoint the one concise thing you want to say about the subject you’re writing about.

As always, submissions are encouraged. Please send you poems here to be featured on the blog or podcast.

You can find out more about Wendy and the Tiny Poetry project at www.tinypoetryproject.com

Books by many of the poets featured on the podcast are available from the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop here. All books purchased via this link help to raise money to keep this podcast going.

Wendy Hind – White Flag

Coming up on the podcast Wendy Hind from Lincoln, Nebraska, shares poems from her Tiny Poetry project and talks about how it was inspired by her son who was born with critical health issues. You can find more poems on her website.

White Flag
If you think I am going
to wave the white flag
you are mistaken.
If you think I am going
to retreat
you are wrong.
I may have to refortify,
I may have to bandage my wounds,
but I am not done fighting,
and I intend to win this war.
I will not surrender
to my pain,
nor to you.

Wendy Hind

Episode 34: Michelle Marie Jacquot – Poetry in the Digital World

LA-based poet Michelle Marie Jacquot’s new pamphlet DETERIORATE, which criticizes and questions the digital age and the effects our modern world has had on humanity. She reads from this and her other collections and discusses her no-nonsense DIY approach to publishing and promotion.

Michelle’s predictive text poetry writing exercise

Has technology ever corrected something you meant to write into something completely different? What did it change? How did you react, feel? Maybe not even a word, perhaps a name? Someone you love to someone you hate? Did it make you angry? Make you laugh? Or was it a silly word? One you never use? Did it change the meaning entirely? Maybe it just made you annoyed at your phone? Who knows. Think on one time autocorrect has changed your words without permission. If it hasn’t, congratulate yourself and write about being precise or lucky, or both.

Please share whatever poems the exercise inspires. Submissions can be sent here for possible inclusion on the blog or future episodes.

For more information about Michelle Marie Jacquot and to buy her books visit www.michellemariejacquot.com

Books by many of the poets featured on the podcast can be purchased via the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop here. All books purchased via this link help to raise money to keep this podcast going.

Episode 33: Ted Sherman – Children’s fantasy poems

In this episode we look at children’s poetry with Bristol-based poet Ted Sherman. He reads from his book for eight to 12-year-olds Dungeon Days which reveals the hidden lives of the mythical creatures living in a typical Dungeons and Dragons dungeon. He also provides a masterclass in writing similar children’s fantasy poems.

We encounter a dwarf in search of a hobby outside his deadly day job, a skeleton with an unusual afterlife and truly monstrous school dinners served by a minotaur. Patrick also shares a poem about a very athletic crab.

Ted’s children’s fantasy character creation exercise

There might seem like a lot of steps to this but each one is quite easy and together they provide a good foundation for a poem that children will love.

  1. Choose your character’s species. Is it a witch, a mermaid, a giant or dwarf. It could be a superhero or some kind of animal.
  2. Describe the characters appearance including things like gender, age, size
  3. Name your character.
  4. What is your character’s job? Try picking something not typically associated with fantasy – i.e. a milkman, the prime minster, a train driver etc.
  5. Create a short, one or two sentence, back story in which there must be a twist, such as the goblin train driver can’t see the controls of the train because he is too small so has to find another way to drive it.
  6. Create a brief story plan – a starting point, a midpoint and the end, so that there is a strong narrative through the poem.
  7. Decide on a rhyme scheme and brainstorm rhyming words that you can use in your poem.

This should give you all you need to write your poem. You don’t have to stick to the plan – things are sure to change along the way. When you’ve written your poem please send it in. It might be featured on the blog or podcast. Poems can be sent here.

Ted Sherman is a father of 3. His poetry has been read on BBC Bristol Radio and has been performed as part of the Echoes and Edges Collab’ Sessions, He has been published in several haiku journals (including Modern Haiku and Seashores), and during lockdown he undertook a project to display the Dungeon Days poems in a woodland area of Bristol during lockdown (this was nominated for the Radio 4 All In The Mind awards).

You can find my poetry at

Books by many of the poets featured on the podcast can be purchased via the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop here. All books purchased via this link help to raise money to keep this podcast going.

Episode 31: Des Mannay – Writing Family History

Unless you enter things, unless you send poems off to get published, enter competitions… It’s by doing that that you make links and you never know what those links lead to.

Des Mannay

Wise words from Newport poet Des Mannay whose poems are reached further than he could have imagined. His raw, witty, personal and often political poems have attracted the attention of editors and competition judges leading to opportunities to perform and publish across the globe and beyond… Seriously – some of his poems are due to be sent to the moon!

On this podcast he reads from his debut collection Sod ‘Em – and Tomorrow, and shares a writing exercise on family history:

“Take a story or myth which is a part of your family history. Reflect on how you fit in as part of that story.”

Everyone’s family background offers rich material for writing. Des talks about his background and how you can learn more about yours to respond to the writing exercise.

You are more than welcome to submit poems written in response to the prompt here. We’d love to read them and they may be featured on the blog or podcast.

Des has also embraced the global community that has grown through poetry events held on Zoom. Here are a few he recommends attending:

Poetry in the Brew

Write and Release

Like a blot from the blue

Live Poets Society

You can buy Des’s book here. Books by many of the poets featured on the podcast can be purchased via the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop here. All books purchased via this link help to raise money to keep this podcast going.